Jul 27, 2009

A desert in the midst of them

When he got back from Iraq they had him stand up. He was a hero, they said. His mother beamed. Everyone applauded. He wasn't used to applause in church, since this was a new thing since they'd built the new building, but everyone applauded and his mother looked proud, at least as proud as she'd ever looked about anything, and the pastor was sitting on a stool on the stage, looking at him and saying he was a real, true-to-life hero.

"I tell people," the pastor said, "the only people who ever died for me were Jesus and American men and women in uniform." He said it again, "Jesus, and American GIs like Andrew here."

He wondered if the pastor was planning to say that at his funeral. If that's what he would have said, if he'd died. His mother had wanted him to wear his uniform. Everyone applauded again and someone whistled and then there was music, an intro on the piano, and the room was dark except for the words lit up on the overhead screen. The words said God was big and ruled like a river, as big as a mountain, a king like a flood, like a fountain, a spring or a waterfall. The worship minister raised one hand and exhaled into the microphone. He made his voice heavy and said "Jesus you are a great flood washing over us this morning, and we are clean," and then the guitars came in, and the drum and the two women in skirts who swayed and sang the chorus about the endless waters of Amazing Grace. Everyone stood and sang "and like a flood" and Andrew's mother was still smiling.

And Andrew thought, I can never tell them.